John’s Drive In & Tar Heel 2 Open for OBX Season

John's' Drive In on the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk has reopened for the season.
John’s’ Drive In on the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk has reopened for the season.

John’s Drive In and the Tar Heel 2 Produce stand have reopened for the season and all is right in the world of the Outer Banks.

The weather is warming, the days are getting longer, traffic is picking up on the Bypass so yes, the natural progression of the seasons is once again on us.

John’s Drive In on the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk and Tar Heel 2 in Kill Devil Hills are about as iconic as businesses could be on the Outer Banks. Both are family owned small businesses that have stood the test of time, occupying the same locations for over 30 years.

For visitors who have not been to John’s Drive In—well, until you go, you have not experienced the real Outer Banks. The burgers are made the way burgers were made 30 or 40 years ago, so don’t expect some super lean cut of meat.

The specialty, though, is their dolphin boat. A huge portion of perfectly fried mahi-mahi bites with very hot french fries. It is the perfect beach food.

And…we can’t forget their milkshakes. The real thing. Thick, filled with ice cream they are almost a meal in themselves.

Expect slow service. It’s not intentional. It’s just that everything is prepared to order and the kitchen is small.

Tar Heel 2 in the Seagate North Shopping Center probably has the best produce prices on the beach. Because he’s been dealing with local farmers for so long, Ed Goninan can usually get local produce when no one else seems to be able to find any.

Definitely the place where locals shop.

Things are really picking up on the Outer Banks. Summer is coming so make sure those Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates reservations have been made.

Outer Banks Burger Battles Heat Up

Burgers and the beach...a perfect combination.
Burgers and the beach…a perfect combination.

Are we having a burger war on the Outer Banks? It’s probably too early to tell if it’s all out warfare, but it does look as though the battle for the best hamburger on the beach is heating up.

Always ready to put in a 110% effort for our Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates. readers, we have taken on the arduous task of comparing the hamburgers of two restaurants that have opened in the past couple of years against two Outer Banks mainstays.

Here’s what we found

The Challengers:

Cross Road Tavern

Seagate North Shopping Center

3105 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills

We really like this place. Very innovative combinations on the burgers and they are big. Everything comes with hand cut fries, although sweet potato fries are an option.

Personal favorites are the “Hangover”—bacon, hash browns, fried egg, and cheddar cheese with maple bacon jam—all on a bun. Be sure to have extra napkins for this one. And the Brie Me—bacon, brie, grilled onions, spinach, and sriracha mayo.

Lot’s of TVs with every sport imaginable playing. Great selection of beer, small but well thought out wine list and excellent oysters.

We’re going back.

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint

800 South Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills

Just opening their doors this spring, Jack Brown’s is a franchise operation that, at last count, had 12 locations.

Lots of craft beers to go with their burgers. The hamburgers are basic straightforward patties without a lot of frills. There are some innovative combinations, like the Elvis—The Elvis—peanut butter, mayo, Applewood smoked bacon and cheese or the Jack On Piggy Back—hamburger with griddle-cooked hot dog, pickled jalapeños & cheddar cheese.

The Home team:

Art’s Place

4624 N Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk

Big juicy burgers, cooked on a flattop and served with hand cut fries. A very generous portion of hand cut fries. There’s not a lot to say about Art’s Place except the burgers have rightly earned a place in the upper echelons of really good hamburger.

John’s Drive-in

3716 N Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk

They’re everything the doctor’s have warned us not to eat…they’re greasy, they’re salty and oh my goodness are they good. A throwback to the glory days of burgers. The dolphin boat is an outstanding substitute if red meat is not on the preferred list for the day.


Not our place to say. Judge for yourself.